Thursday, April 16, 2015

God offers to every mind its choice between truth and repose. Take which you please — you can never have both

We do not err because truth is difficult to see. It is visible at a glance. We err because this is more comfortable. ~Alexander Solzhenitsyn (1918 – 2008 Russian novelist and critic of Soviet totalitarianism)

Scripture Text: (ACTS 5:27-33)
When the court officers had brought the Apostles in
and made them stand before the Sanhedrin,
the high priest questioned them,
“We gave you strict orders did we not,
to stop teaching in that name.
Yet you have filled Jerusalem with your teaching
and want to bring this man’s blood upon us.”
But Peter and the Apostles said in reply,
“We must obey God rather than men.
The God of our ancestors raised Jesus,
though you had him killed by hanging him on a tree.
God exalted him at his right hand as leader and savior
to grant Israel repentance and forgiveness of sins.
We are witnesses of these things,
as is the Holy Spirit whom God has given to those who obey him.”

When they heard this,
they became infuriated and wanted to put them to death.

What is authority and where does it come from? How do we recognize it? What examples of authority should we follow?

In Acts 5, we see a tension between the religious authorities who were used to operating in a structure that granted them power and control, and the apostles who were teaching and healing in the name of Jesus, seemingly with an authority that was unexplainable and certainly not authorized by the “powers that be.” Maybe people didn’t understand where this authority came from, but they certainly recognized it when they saw it. Isn’t it the same with us? We see people in positions of power, but often their pronouncements and their actions ring hollow; we also see people who have no position or prestige, yet their way of speaking, acting, and being can affect us in very powerful ways.

This tension is one that I think we feel often, from a wide variety of authority figures. Pope Francis even spoke about it in his Christmas message to Vatican officials this past winter, warning those ecclesiastical authorities not to get into a way of proceeding where the position becomes the most important thing:

"This is the disease of persons who insatiably try to accumulate power and to this end are ready to slander, defame and discredit others, even in newspapers and magazines. Naturally, so as to put themselves on display and to show that they are more capable than others. This disease does great harm to the Body because it leads persons to justify the use of any means whatsoever to attain their goal, often in the name of justice and transparency!"

So the questions for us to think about today are: Who has authority in my life? Those whose influence comes only from titles and appointments and positions? Or those who are close to the God who hears the cry of the just, and is close to the brokenhearted and those who are crushed in spirit? Which examples of authority pull me at my core and inspire me to do good in the world? That is real authority, the one that we are called to follow. It may be unsanctioned and unauthorized by those accustomed to wielding influence, but it certainly has authenticity and the power to inspire us to become more Christ-like.

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